• Remember to laugh at yourself

    My mother, bless her soul, passed away five years ago on May 11th. On this Mother’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to her remarkable ability to get into situations that defied explanation.

    Mom was short and slightly absent-minded. Those two factors contributed to several of the circumstances she found herself in, most notably the Case of the Shoplifted Tomato: One morning she was cruising the fruit and vegetable aisle in the grocery store and stopped to examine the wall display of tomatoes. She had to lean way in to make sure that she saw all of the best ones in the back.

    Apparently, as she reached to the top of the bin, one of the tomatoes rolled down and dropped into the pocket of her jacket. She had no idea that this had happened until she had paid for her groceries and went out to the car; when she put her hand into her pocket, she pulled out a tomato instead of her keys.

    She stood there, she said, overcome with shock. My mother, who would never ever think of taking anything that was not rightfully hers, had just stolen a tomato.

    She got this far in telling me the story, and I was already bent over laughing.

    Did you ever see the episode of “All in the Family” where Edith Bunker accidentally walks out of the supermarket with an unpaid-for can of sliced cling peaches in heavy syrup? Well, I calmed Mom down that day, but the next week she called to inform me that she was definitely a kleptomaniac, because she had come home from the library with the check-out date stamper in her pocket. I’m not sure how she managed that one.

    One of her most fascinating tales was about the time she went to the bank, which was located in a building with a circular entrance. Somehow she lost her deposit slip and cash during the short trip around the circle and phoned me in a panic to say that she didn’t know how to explain this to my father. Unfortunately, this incident happened shortly after The New Carpet Disaster: My parents had installed new wall-to-wall carpet, and when my mother returned from one of her shopping expeditions, she attempted to step into the hallway while holding a full bag of plastic soda bottles. She somehow lost her footing, the bag tilted forward and a half gallon bottle hit the floor, shooting Diet Pepsi directly onto the carpet.

    And the saga continued. There was the time she grabbed a can of bug spray instead of hair spray. And the morning she brushed her teeth with Ben-Gay muscle ointment.

    Each new scenario was funnier than the last. I probably shouldn’t have laughed at her so much, but she had a great sense of humor about herself and was able to survive with her ego intact.

    Probably her most interesting adventure was when she chained herself to her car. Once again, she had been food-shopping (in retrospect, we should have found someone to go to the store for her) and she came home and parked in the condo lot. She unloaded the bags from the trunk to the ground and then proceeded to slam the trunk shut. As she did so, a small, dangly chain from her bracelet apparently got caught inside. She didn’t realize it until she tried to bend down and pick up a bag and discovered that she couldn’t move her arm.

    She had unlocked the trunk from the front seat of the car before she got out, so she wasn’t holding her keys; they were in her pocketbook on the ground, along with her cell phone. She couldn’t reach anything. She looked around the parking lot but no one else was there. So she waited. And waited. And then around the corner, she saw a car coming, and tried to wave the driver down. The woman smiled and waved back at her as she drove by.

    It was a warm spring day and my mother was getting hot and uncomfortable and starting to worry about the frozen goods. At that moment, another driver rounded the corner, and this time Mom tried to jump up and down while waving her arm. Thankfully, the driver saw the bags on the ground and pulled over to see if she needed help carrying them into the condo. Not exactly, she told him, and asked him to go get my father. I can only imagine what my dad said that time.

    Mother’s Day has understandably been a little difficult for me the last few years. But memories of my mom are so imbued with laughter that I always have to smile. And wonder…

    Is it true that you turn into your mother as you get older? I may be in serious trouble.

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